Balanced Pacers roll past visiting Bulldogs
No. 5 USC AIKEN 72, WINGATE 59
By JEREMY TIMMERMAN
The No. 5 USC Aiken women’s basketball team is good when one player steps up and leads the way. When four or even five come up big, the Pacer women are downright dangerous.
That’s exactly what happened in Wednesday’s 72-59 win over Wingate. Led by senior captain Daniela Tarialo with 19 points, four Pacers scored in double digits and another led the team with nine rebounds.
After going 1-for-3 from beyond the 3-point line – 1-of-8 overall – in the first half, Tarailo made 4 of 5 long ball attempts after halftime to stretch a 34-23 lead to its maximum of 25 points.
She made her first three shots from beyond the arc in the second frame as part of a 14-3 Pacer run to start the half, and she said the hot shooting was a welcome change.
“I shot pretty horrible the first half, so I figured it couldn’t get any worse,” Tarailo said. “So I just decided to wait for my shot to come to me and take what the defense gave us and finally started feeling it, so I just kept going with it.”
The five 3-pointers tied a career high for Tarailo, as did the eight attempts.
Junior point guard Brittany Hill, another Pacer captain, wasn’t far behind with 15 points and also had seven points and seven steals, with the steals marking a career-best. Hill scored 11 of her points in the first half to lead the Pacers, and her early work was a result of her capitalizing on defensive decisions by the Bulldogs, according to USCA head coach Mike Brandt.
He said the Bulldogs started out using a triangle-and-two defense, one of the many “gimmick” defenses that teams will try to use against the talented Pacer offense.
“When you have that, you’re going to have one or two players that are going to be wide open,” he said. “They chose to give her the opportunity to shoot it, and fortunately, she stepped up and knocked some of those down because if you don’t do that, then you get to hesitating a little bit and the shot becomes even more difficult.”
All-American junior forward Kayla Harris was next for the Pacers with 13 points and eight rebounds, and junior Porsha Martin had 11 points and eight boards. Martin’s rebound total was good enough for a career best, and Mackenzie Reese led the Pacers with a personal high of nine rebounds.
Brandt said the balanced effort led by Tarailo was a sign of what his team tries to do every game.
“You know, we really don’t gear our offense to anybody in particular. Maybe once in a while, we’ll run some things for Kayla because she’s just that type of player,” he said. “Other players have to step up, and so anytime somebody steps up, and for Daniela to step up was huge because in the first half she kind of struggled, and she didn’t shoot three-point percentage very high in the first game, so it was great for her confidence in the second half to step up and hit those. It’s hard to tell who’s going to be your leading scorer each time but you just take what you can get, and hopefully the players will understand that and keep attacking and keep scoring baskets.”
The Pacers will hit the court again on Saturday at 7 p.m. at home against Catawba.
Jeremy Timmerman has a journalism degree from Mercer University and has been at the Aiken Standard since June 2010.